Owen, start owing
Bettman upholds Nolan's 11-game suspension
Updated: Sunday February 18, 2001 9:31 AM
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman refused to reduce the ban Nolan received earlier this month for his hit on Grant Marshall of the Dallas Stars. Nolan, the Sharks' second-leading scorer, won't be eligible to return until San Jose's game in Ottawa on March 1.
The Sharks appealed the suspension at a 2 1/2-hour hearing Friday. Nolan, Sharks general manager Dean Lombardi and team president Greg Jamison met with Bettman to argue that the punishment was too severe.
"After giving due consideration to the evidence and arguments presented to me on appeal of Mr. Nolan's suspension, I have concluded that the original determination regarding the length of Mr. Nolan's suspension was warranted and appropriate," Bettman said in a statement released by the league.
"Accordingly, Mr. Nolan will serve the full 11-game suspension."
Lombardi, who said earlier that Bettman harbored an "intense dislike" for him that may have affected the earlier ruling, was conciliatory on Saturday.
"We consider this matter over," Lombardi said. "We accept commissioner Bettman's ruling on our appeal and want to take the opportunity to thank him."
Nolan, furious after Marshall boarded him earlier in the first period, floored Marshall in a game Feb. 1, hitting him in the head with his forearm and elbow.
Marshall was knocked unconscious and removed from the ice on a stretcher. He was hospitalized overnight with a concussion, but he missed only one game.
"One thing that needs to remain clear, and seems to have gotten lost in the rhetoric, was that our actions were done to protect our player," Lombardi said of the Sharks" controversial decision to appeal. Such appeals are rare -- and rarely successful -- in the NHL.
"While we felt the punishment was unjust, our players need to know that we'll go to bat for them as hard as they go to bat for the organization," Lombardi said. "It is all about the jersey, not just Owen Nolan. The matter is closed and we are moving on."
Nolan already has missed five games for the Pacific Division-leading Sharks, who play at Minnesota on Sunday. The Sharks are 3-0-2 with Nolan on the sidelines, thanks to a stingy defense that has allowed just three goals in those five games.
Nolan was the NHL's sixth-leading scorer last season with 44 goals and 84 points as San Jose advanced to the second round of the playoffs. After several underachieving years in Quebec and Colorado, Nolan became a star during his first three seasons as the Sharks' captain.
But Bettman's ruling is the latest trouble in a difficult season for Nolan, who missed all of training camp in a contract holdout. He played just three of the Sharks' first 17 games while working on his conditioning after offseason surgery.
During that time, the NHL filed a grievance against the contract Nolan signed. The league took issue with a clause which guaranteed Nolan would be paid in the event of labor problems in 2004, when the current collective bargaining agreement expires.
The Sharks are well on their way to the best season in team history even largely without full contributions from Nolan and center Vincent Damphousse. The Sharks' leading scorer, Damphousse won't be back from a shoulder injury until the playoffs.
"I think we're a stronger team because of all this," forward
Jeff Friesen said earlier this week. "We miss those guys a whole
lot, but we're a strong enough team now that we can win without
them. Dealing with tough situations is what this game is all